t appears unbelievable when Pakistani Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa makes overtures for peace with India. Bajwa has said “… he hopes by entering into armed cooperation with India; we can have peace and prosperity in the region”. Shall we take it at face value that Pakistan now wants to extend a hand of friendship with India? Another question is, will the Indian Army Chief take this proposal of Pakistan seriously? Will the Indian Army chief agree to sit on negotiating table with his Pakistani counterpart? We will have to turn the pages of the history of the Pakistani army to look at its role and conduct with India in the past in order to find answers to these questions.
Bajwa is a shade better than his predecessor Rahil Sharif
There is no harm in accepting this fact that the present Pakistani Army Chief Bajwa is a shade better than his predecessor Rahil Sharif. Bajwa appears to be reasonable and intelligent. Rahil Sharif used to speak like a ‘goonda’. He was past master in hoodwinking and used to make provocative statements against India. There was some reason behind it for his hard stance against India. One reason was that Rahil Sharif’s relative was killed in the Indo-Pak war of 1971. The situation in Pakistan is such that final say in matters related to India is that of the Army Junta and not of the elected civil government in Pakistan. Office of Prime Minister in Pakistan has been reduced to a merely symbolic one. We have seen this right from the days of Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq to Parvez Musharraf. These Army Chiefs overthrew elected governments of Pakistan in the past by staging coup. But the world has changed now. Because of the pressure of powerful nations of the world, the Army in Pakistan now thinks twice before overthrowing civilian government. At the same time, this is also a fact that the supremacy of the Army in Pakistan over civilian government remains intact. Should we take the overtures of Pakistan for peace and cooperation seriously in this background? Before finding an answer to this question we should keep in mind how the Pakistani Army was bruised after the surgical strike carried out by the Indian Army across the Line of Control which destroyed many terrorist camps and Army posts on the Pakistani soil. Pakistani Army has realised by now the strength of the Indian Army which is capable of striking it across the Line of Control. In the Kargil war we pushed the infiltrators from our territory but now we can strike Pak Army by crossing over to their territory. Even China has recognised our strength by now. After taking an aggressive position in Doklam, the Chinese made a retreat from the position. Pakistan has also realised the strength of the Indian Armed Forces’ hence the peace overtures.
Obstruction on the Path of Friendship
This is a fact that whenever Pakistan wanted to improve its ties with India, Army Junta and the head of the terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad Maulana Masood Azhar put a spoke in the wheel of peace. It was abundantly clear after the terrorist attack of Pathankot Air Base of the Indian Air Force when Maulana Masood Azhar was arrested by Pakistani authorities. Jaish and Pakistani Army always try to inflict injury to India. Jaish draws strength from the secret agency the ISI which is an important wing of the Pakistan Army. The ISI operates under the directive of Pakistan Army. The chief of the ISI directly reports to the Army Chief of Pakistan.
The ISI has been active in resurrecting the Khalistani extremists to create trouble and unleash violence in the Gurudaspur-Pathankot-Jammu sector.
It is said that the ISI had clipped the wings of Jaish after the attack on Indian Parliament because Masood Azhar had challenged the Pakistani Army at one stage. Jaish-e-Mohammad is a more dreaded terrorist outfit than Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The nexus of the Pakistan Army, the ISI and Jaish-e-Mohammad in promoting terrorism is a well- known fact. The question is what has happened now and what has changed that this axis is trying to negotiate peace with India. The Pakistani Army has always been dominated by the Punjabis of Pakistan. This lobby hates India. The bloodbath during the partition is one example that established the anti-India stance of the Punjabi lobby in the Pakistan Army. The region of Punjab in Pakistan is a breeding ground for terrorists. The Pakistan Junta has not allowed the democracy to take its roots in Pakistan. The Army had overthrown a democratically elected government in the past so much, so that even after the creation of Pakistan it was not able to have a Constitution till 1956. When Pakistan adopted its Constitution, the Army usurped power by overthrowing an elected government. Since 1947, Pakistan has been under military rule for 30 years.
Under this background, India will have to consider the hand of friendship extended by Pakistan Army Chief Bajwa with an open mind. There is a saying, ‘once bitten twice shy’. India must ponder over all factors before deciding on renewing peace with Pakistan. It is also being said that after a successful summit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chinese head Xi Jinping in China, it has dawned on Islamabad that it will be better of them to have peace with India.
R K Sinha
(The writer is a Member of Parliament, Raya Sabha)